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COUNTRY PROFILES


PROFILE

Country Profile

Area: 112,492 sq km
Population: 6.19 million (2010)
Capital City: Tegucigalpa (1.5 million)
People: Many Hondurans are descended from 16th Century Spanish and other mainly European immigrants. The population is made up of: Mestizo (mixed Maya and European) 90%; Amerindian 7%; black 2%; white 1%.
Languages: Officially Spanish, though many business executives speak English. There are also indigenous dialects.
Religion(s): Roman Catholicism is the principal religion (97%).
Currency: Lempira
Major Political Parties: Partido Nacional (PN); Partido Liberal (PL); Partido Demócrata Cristiano (PDC); Partido de Innovacion Nacional y Unidad-Social Democrata (PINU-SD); Partido de Unificacion Democratica (PUD)
Government: Honduras has a republican system of government consisting of three separate and independent branches: the Executive Branch, headed by the President, who is advised by a Cabinet of Ministers; the Legislative Branch; and the Judicial Branch, headed by the Supreme Court. The President is directly elected for a four-year term.
Head of State: Porfirio Lobo Sosa
Foreign Minister: Arturo Corrales Alvarez
Membership of international groups/organisations: Honduras’ memberships include: the United Nations (UN) and its specialised agencies; the Organisation of American States (OAS); the Central American Common Market; the Central American Integration System (SICA); the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA); plus numerous institutions and programmes within the UN and OAS systems.

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HEALTH

In Honduras the quality of and access to healthcare are directly tied to income levels. Adequate health care is available to those able to pay the high cost. Health care for the urban and rural poor is limited.

Health services are not readily accessible to a majority of the population. In the more isolated regions of Honduras, there are almost no physicians. Government clinics are often empty shells lacking adequate personnel, equipment and medicines.

Infectious and parasitic diseases are the leading causes of death. Gastro-enteritis and tuberculosis are serious problems. Diseases such as dengue fever, influenza, malaria, typhoid and pneumonia have returned because of a lack of preventive measures. HIV/AIDS is a growing problem in Honduras .

Life expectancy: Male 68.93 years; Female 72.37 years (2011est.)
Infant mortality rate: 20.44 per 1,000 live births (2011 est.)

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ECONOMY

Basic Economic Facts

Nominal GDP: US$15.3 billion (2010)
Nominal GDP per head: US$1,908 (2010)
Annual growth: 2.8% (2010)
Inflation: 4.7 % (2010)
Major industries: coffee 23.6%, bananas 13.2%, shrimp 7.2%, palm oil 5%, textiles 2.6% 2007)
Export partners: US 65%, El Salvador 4.4%, Germany 4% (2010)
Imports: US 50.7%, Guatemala 8.2%, Mexico 5.3%, El Salvador 4.8% (2010)

Due to the world economic crisis, Honduras is experiencing a major setback in its key economic indicators. The Economic Activity Monthly Index fell 3% during the first six months of 2009, compared with the 3.5% growth registered in the same period last year. Transportation and communications, power and water, mining, commerce, manufacturing, banking and insurance, and the construction sectors registered the biggest decreases. Remittances from Hondurans working abroad are down by approximately 10% in the first 6 months of 2009 over the same period the previous year.

Honduras's economy is one of the least developed in Latin America. Industrial development has been limited and historically it has been dependent on banana and coffee exports. In the past decade the economy has diversified, with the development of exports such as shrimp, melons and clothes. Tourism revenue has also grown steadily from US$29m in 1990 to US$291m in 2002, and in 2007 stood at US$567m.

But the burden of its foreign debt (around 80% of total GDP) has slowed growth. Since reaching the completion point of the Highly Indebted Poor Countries Initiative (HIPC) in early 2005, Honduras has benefited from several debt relief initiatives, both bilateral and multilateral, which have brought total debt down from approximately $5 billion to $3 billion. The G8 alone wrote off over $1 billion of the Honduran foreign debt. The UK wrote off a further £20.2 million of bilateral debt. In April 2008, Honduras signed a new economic programme with the IMF. It commits Honduras to reduce public spending while improving the quality of public expenditure.

In November 1998 Hurricane Mitch devastated the whole country. While the damage has been difficult to calculate, losses to infrastructure and agricultural yields and the displacement of one third of the population will have repercussions for many years. The international community has provided emergency aid, and later reconstruction aid.

Honduras is a net importer of oil and the current global rise in fuel prices is likely to have an adverse effect on the economy.

History

Mayan civilisation reached western Honduras in the fifth century AD and spread rapidly. Over the next three and a half centuries the area of Copan developed into the principal centre of Mayan culture and was the leading centre for both astronomical studies – in which the Maya were quite advanced – and art. Then, at the height of the Mayan civilisation around 800 AD, Copan was mysteriously abandoned and fell into ruin.
Following the period of Mayan dominance, Honduras was inhabited by a multiplicity of indigenous peoples. Although divided into numerous distinct and frequently hostile groups, they carried on considerable trade with other parts of their immediate region as well as with areas as far away as Panama and Mexico.
In August 1502, on his fourth and final voyage, Columbus arrived off the island of Guanaja. Sailing east along the Caribbean coast and into harsh storms, the fleet rounded a cape where, encountering calmer waters, Columbus is reputed to have exclaimed ‘Gracias a Dios que hemos salido de estas Honduras’ (Thank God we have now left these depths), christening both the cape – Cabo Gracias – and eventually the country. Twenty years later, the conquistadors returned to take possession of the new territory.
For the indigenous inhabitants, the consolidation of Spanish power was catastrophic. Contemporary population records are notoriously inaccurate, but from an estimated 400,000 in 1524, the population probably fell to as low as 15,000 by 1571. Those who survived were enslaved and shipped either overseas or into the mines. Incredibly, considering their impact, the number of colonists numbered fewer than 300 throughout the 17th century.
By the early 1800s, Honduras was an economy in crisis. Mining was virtually defunct and a series of severe droughts hit both agriculture and livestock. Spanish power went into rapid decline. On 15 September 1821 all the Central American provinces declared their independence from Spain.
For Honduras, the first decades of independence were neither peaceful nor prosperous. The combined impact of civil strife and foreign interventions had doomed Honduras to a position of relative economic and social backwardness that lasted throughout the 1800s. In the late 19th century, US fruit companies were more than happy to accept government concessions which included exemption from customs duties and ownership of mineral rights in order to develop the banana industry, an industry that was to become the dominating factor in Honduras’s future.
By 1900, bananas were the most important export and by 1930 Honduras was the world’s leading banana exporter. By 1940, however, diseases had taken their toll and Ecuador overtook Honduras in production. For much of the 20th century the political scene was dominated by the military, foreign (banana) companies and large land-owning interests.

Recent History

In October 1963, a second coup in 10 years installed Colonel Oswaldo Lopez Arellano as provisional president. During 12 years in power, he decimated the Liberal opposition and reversed most of his predecessor’s social reforms. Above all, however, his period of office is best remembered for one of the more bizarre conflicts of modern Central America, the so-called ‘Football War’. On July 14, 1969, war broke out on the Honduras-El Salvador border ostensibly caused by a disputed result in a soccer match between the two countries. After three days, around 2,000 deaths and a complete rupture of diplomatic relations, the Organisation of American States (OAS) negotiated a cease-fire. Only in 1992 did both sides accept an International Court of Justice ruling demarcating the border in its current location. In January 2002 however, 10 years after the ICJ delimitation of the boundaries, Honduras raised at the UN Security Council El Salvador's alleged refusal to give effect to those judgements. The matter remains before the Security Council. In December 2003, the ICJ declined El Salvador's application for a revision of its 1992 ruling.

Following the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua in 1979 and the election of Ronald Reagan to the US Presidency, Honduras became the focus for support to the US-backed Contra war in Nicaragua, accepting in return over $1.5 billion of direct economic and military aid from the US during the 1980s. Domestically, the relationship between the military and government grew ever closer. Human rights violations grew alarmingly, with the army implicated in the ‘disappearance’ of hundreds of activists from labour organisations and peace movements.

With the resolution of both the Contra war and the civil war in El Salvador, the military’s power receded somewhat, forced conscription was ended and most of the US troops stationed in Honduras were recalled, throwing the country’s endemic economic and social problems into stark relief.

In 1982 a freely elected civilian president and National Congress were inaugurated, returning the country to constitutional rule after 10 years of military-led government. However, in June 2009, then President Manuel Zelaya was forcibly removed from the country by the military and an interim government installed. Presidential elections subsequently took place in November 2009 with the new President, Profirio Lobo, inaugurated in January 2010. See Politics section below

International Relations

Relations with Neighbours

Cuba

During official celebrations of the Inauguration of former-President Maduro on 26/27 January 2002, the outgoing Government of Honduras announced the restoration of diplomatic relations with Cuba, broken in April 1961. The move was not totally unexpected given the strong Cuban assistance to Honduras over the three and a half years since Hurricane Mitch, the ongoing support of the Cuban medical team working in remote areas of Honduras and the conclusion of the Honduran/Cuban maritime boundary agreement. As a new member to the Commission, Honduras tabled the annual Resolution on human rights in Cuba that was passed at the UN Commission on Human Rights in April 2004. Despite Cuban denunciation and claims of US pressure on Honduras, formal bilateral relations between Honduras and Cuba have survived.

Nicaragua

In November 1999, a maritime dispute with Nicaragua flared up. The basis for the dispute was the ratification by Honduras of the 1986 Ramirez-Lopez Treaty whereby Colombia’s right to the San Andreas and Providencia islands in the Caribbean was recognised. Nicaragua, which has laid claim to 30,000 sq km of territorial sea, was outraged by the Honduran action. Both countries agreed to take the dispute to the International Court of Justice (ICJ). In the meantime, the Organisation of American States (OAS) has supported confidence-building measures including visits by an International Verification Mission to the border between Honduras and Nicaragua. In December 2001, Foreign Ministers from both countries signed an agreement at the headquarters of the OAS establishing the framework for a Bi-national Border Development Plan.

As part of the increasing process of economic integration in the Central American region, Honduras signed an agreement with Nicaragua on 15 February 2005 to simplify customs procedures on the border between the two countries.

El Salvador

Alleged El Salvadorian refusal to give effect to the ICJ’s judgement on the delimitation of the boundaries between the two countries, is an ongoing irritant and has led to Honduras raising the issue with the UN Security Council. The ICJ declined El Salvador’s application for a revision of its 1992 ruling in December 2003.

Belize/Guatemala

Honduras enjoys good relations with both Guatemala and Belize, all three being members of the Central American Integration System (SICA). Honduras and Belize are presently pursuing joint-initiatives in disaster and emergency management as well as on environmental issues. Honduras follows the Guatemala/Belize dispute carefully given its own unresolved dispute with El Salvador and because Honduras, Belize and Guatemala are Caribbean neighbours in the Gulf of Honduras.

In early 2006, Honduras participated in the OAS-facilitated meetings aimed at promoting a long-term settlement to the Belize/Guatemala border dispute. Honduras hosted a meeting between the two sides on 23 March 2006. Honduras has a particular interest in maritime aspects of the territorial dispute.
There are a large number of migrant seasonal workers from Honduras in the Belizean citrus and banana industry. Many Hondurans also work in Guatemala; the latter having growing business ties and investments in Honduras.

Relations with the International Community


See 'Membership of International Organisations' above.

Moves towards regional economic integration in Central America continue. In 2004, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic concluded negotiations with the USA on the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). During 2004 and early 2005 several Central American countries signed bilateral border agreements to simplify customs procedures for goods (and tourists) passing from one country to another.

Following the political events of 28 June 2009, however, many countries limited contacts with HondurasSubsequent to President Lobo's inauguration on 27 January 2010, steps were taken to normalise relations with the international community, including the resumption of EU budgetary support. The EU-Central American Association Agreement talks officially resumed in February 2010 and the Organisation of American States (OAS) restored Honduras’s membership in June 2011.

Relations with the UK

The British Embassy in Honduras closed in December 2003. HM Ambassador to Guatemala City is additionally accredited as non-resident Ambassador to Honduras.

There have been positive visits to Honduras in recent years, including from Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials. HM Ambassador to Guatemala City regularly visits Honduras and has recently travelled to the Bay Islands.Politically the UK has a shared interest with Honduras in free trade, the protection of child rights and human rights defenders, protecting the environment, opposing international terrorism, fighting the illegal trade in drugs, and regional security.
Embassy Staff in Guatemala City visit Honduras frequently to build contacts and discuss matters of importance to both countries with the Honduran Government and civil society.

Cultural Relations with the UK

Honduras does not have a British Council office. Please visit the British Council (http://www.britishcouncil.org/new/) Internet page to find more information or the nearest office.

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GEOGRAPHY

Honduras is the second largest country in Central America after Nicaragua. Bordered by Guatemala and El Salvador to its west and Nicaragua to its east, the country has 644km of Caribbean coastline and 124km of Pacific coastline. Approximately 75% of the country is mountainous but these areas have suffered considerably from deforestation in recent years. The only substantial lowlands are found in coastal areas.

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TRADE AND INVESTMENT

Trade and Investment with the UK

UK exports to Honduras were worth US$45.6 million in 2007. The UK's principal exports to Honduras are specialised industrial machinery. Honduran exports to the UK in 2007 were worth US$14.6 million. Honduran exports to the UK include fruit and vegetables, minerals, cork and wood, ores and metal scrap, tobacco and clothing.

UK Trade & Investment Country Profile: Honduras (http://www.uktradeinvest.gov.uk/ukti/honduras)

UK Development Assistance

In recent years, the Embassy in Guatemala has been focussing its project funding in Honduras on the promotion of human rights and good governance, and clean energy/climate change initiatives. For more information on the current projects being funded by the UK in Honduras, visit the British Embassy Guatemala City project pages (http://ukinguatemala.fco.gov.uk/en/about-us/working-with-guatemala/development-assistance/) .

The UK responded promptly to requests for assistance following Hurricane Mitch in 1998 and flooding in the north of the country in 2001. The UK also provided assistance to Honduras and Guatemala following Tropical Storm Stan in October 2005.

The UK provides aid to Honduras through the multilateral agencies, in particular the EU and the InterAmerican Development Bank (IADB). The EU provided a package of €4m of assistance to the region, including Honduras, following the devastating rains of 2011 caused by Tropical Depression 12-E. The UK Department for International Development (DFID) has a range of NGO partners in Honduras through whom the UK also supports development projects.

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POLITICS

On 28 June 2009, former President Manuel Zelaya (Liberal Party) was removed from the country in what has been described as a "military-supported constitutional coup". The Honduran Supreme Court and Congress had judged that Zelaya's plans to hold a referendum about constitutional reform - notably whether the Presidential mandate should be extended to allow incumbents to stand for more than one term - was itself unconstitutional. The president of Congress, Roberto Micheletti was subsequently sworn in as interim President.

The UK, along with the wider international community, strongly condemned the forcible removal of President Zelaya. On 30 June, the UN General Assembly adopted unanimously a resolution expressing deep concern about the situation which ‘interrupted the democratic and constitutional order’ in the country. The UK called for the immediate restoration of democratic, constitutional government in Honduras, and supported a peaceful, negotiated, and regionally-led resolution to the situation.

http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/newsroom/latest-news/?view=PressS&id=20301884
(http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/newsroom/latest-news/?view=PressS&id=20301884)
On 30 October 2010 interim President Micheletti and former President Zelaya signed the San José/Tegucigalpa Accord as a means to take forward a resolution to the political situation, although the terms of the Accord were not fully implemented. Presidential elections nevertheless took place as planned on 29 November 2009, with the National Party candidate Porfirio ('Pepe') Lobo declared the winner. President Lobo was inaugurated on 27 January 2010 for a four-year term, and has formed a government of national unity whose cabinet includes political figures from a variety of backgrounds. Among the challenges facing the new government are the ongoing economic difficulties of Honduras and its government finances and the restoration of relations with the international community.

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HUMAN RIGHTS

Honduras has ratified the following international human rights treaties:

-- International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

-- International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

-- Convention on the Rights of the Child

-- Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women

-- International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination

-- Convention against Torture or other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

UK Support for Human Rights

The UK is concerned about human rights abuses wherever they occur. We regularly raise our concerns about human rights issues in the framework of our bilateral relations and in international fora. In Honduras there are several areas of concern including the increase in violent crime, the lack of public security and corruption in the judiciary. There are particular concerns about the plight of street children and freedom of expression. In an overall context overwhelming poverty in the country, good police training with an awareness of human rights responsibilities and adequate equipment are difficult to achieve. The Honduran Government has publicly acknowledged it has serious problems and has taken some steps to deal with these such as the creation of a Special Investigative Unit to investigate the murders of children and young people. There has also been a measure of judicial reform. There is an increasing groundswell of public support for these and for other measures that attack corruption in government, strengthen the democratic process and encourage transparency.

Following the removal of former President Zelaya in June 2009 and his clandestine return to the country in September 2009, several Human Rights organisations in Honduras denounced attacks on civil population and peaceful demonstrations, and reported severe restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression, information and assembly, including numerous arbitrary detentions, the persecution of trade unionists and human rights defenders and the closure of radio stations. For these reasons the UK supported a resolution at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to prepare a report on the human rights violations committed during this period.

In November 2010 Honduras took part in the UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on Human Rights process. The UPR is a mechanism established in 2008, whereby each UN member has its human rights record reviewed every four years. The UK raised reported human rights abuses with the Honduran Government at the UPR, and made recommendations for the future protection of human rights.

Past Human Rights Abuses

Following the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua in 1979, Honduras became the focus of support for the US-backed Contra war in Nicaragua. Domestically, the relationship between the government and the military grew ever closer. Human Rights violations rose alarmingly, with the army implicated in at least 184 ‘disappearances’ of activists from labour organisations and peace movements. Forced conscription was common, and lengthy jail sentences were introduced for activities deemed subversive, including street demonstrations. In 1984, army officers, increasingly anxious over the actions of the Head of the Police Force (FSP), forced him into exile. Though repression eased, the relationship between military and government continued to be close, with corruption at senior levels in both institutions endemic, fuelled by the little regulated military support funds from the US. With the resolution of the Contra War and the civil war in El Salvador and the recall of US troops stationed in Honduras, conscription was ended and the power of the military receded somewhat.

In accordance with the Tegucigalpa San José Accord signed by interim President Micheletti and former President Zelaya, the Honduran Government established a Truth Commission with local and international representation to look into the events leading up to and after 28 June 2009. The Truth Commission found that the events of June 2009 constituted an unlawful coup and that the government under Micheletti was illegal. An ‘Alternative Truth Commission’ has been set up by civil society and will present a report in 2012.

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Last Updated: January 2012

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